What the teachers say

This week the Government launched its 'fundamental challenge to the education status quo'. So far businesses have not produced the hoped-for radical ideas. Nicolas Barnard, Frances Rafferty and Geraldine Hackett report

Yvonne Bates, head of the Lilian Bayliss secondary in Lambeth, one of the 25 elected zones, is very enthusiastic. "This is very exciting for our school and I think we will benefit hugely. We have now acquired specialist status which is what we had planned to do. With the extra money our school will start a Breakfast club so that kids can come here between 7 and 8.30 to eat and work and may even invite children from feeder schools to join. We will expand our fledgling GNVQ Business through work-related learning initiatives for the key stage 4 curriculum.

I feel sure that we won't lose any of our autonomy as it was stipulated in the Lambeth bid that the project board would not remove any of the governors' powers, nor change the teachers' pay and conditions agreements.

Our main business partner will be the Marriot Hotel and so our pupils will be able to see how their skills can be transferred into the business world."

Diane Dockrell, head of Staunton park community school in Havant, Hampshire, says that having given the bid serious consideration, the cluster of schools in her area eventually decided on a wait-and-see policy.

"What concerned me most was the idea that our pupils would feel stigmatised and labelled as under-achievers. I was unhappy about the assumption made that these kids were failing.

"Another worry was that our group of two secondaries and 14 feeder schools might lose autonomy over our successful action plan in numeracy and literacy. We have also established strong links with various local industries and we wanted to build on them rather than rely on one massive partner which would take on the role as saviour.

"Despite all that, we will review our position further down the line and may put in a bid next year."

Maria Williams, head of Aylwin girls secondary in Southwark, whose bid was also selected, is delighted with the Education Action Zones.

"The extra funding guarantees the continuation and expansion of our numeracy and literacy initiatives and our centre for girls at risk of exclusion.

"It will allow us to be more flexible with the national curriculum as we know that better results can be achieved by spending more time on fewer subjects.

"We will be building on our business partnerships established with companies such as Price Waterhouse, the Financial Times and Optimum Health.

"I am sure that the new status will also serve to strengthen our position in bidding to become a performance arts specialist school."

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